Writing the unwritten rules

It isn’t until someone tries to bend or break the rules that most rules get written down. For what everyone else takes for granted, some jerk will say “Nobody told me it wasn’t allowed.” “It isn’t written down anywhere that this is forbidden, so it must be allowed.” And then it gets written down, because somebody had to be a jerk.

Welcome to today’s session of writing things down that should even need to be said! Our topic – Candidates should be nice.

The actual requirements for running for President of the United States are few. Be over 35 and a natural-born citizen. Changing the Constitution to refine these criteria would take a long time and eventually fail. However, we can take advantage of the fact that two major parties control access to the Presidency, and they are private organizations that can make up their own rules. Given the right pressures, political parties can be very responsive.

So here is my list of requirements for anybody running for President with a major party:

  1. Be transparent – Share 10 years of tax returns.
  2. Be inclusive – Spend 100 hours in community service in the last year.
  3. Travel – Meet elected officials from 10 other countries.
  4. Be electable – You must have held elected office before at the state or Federal level, or as the mayor of a large city.
  5. Be knowledgeable – Take a test and allow your score (and right and wrong answers) to be public. There will be essay questions.
    1. World history and current events
    2. Probability and statistics
    3. Macroeconomics and finance
    4. Basic science and current issues
  6. Be clear – Respond to the current party platform and say how you would change it.
    1. Extra credit – Respond to the other party’s platform as well.
  7. Take the truth seriously – donate to the other party for being caught in a lie by a fact-checking group.
  8. Be direct – Agree to at least three debates.
  9. Renounce hatred – Hate speech against any protected class will be disqualifying.

Candidates should agree to these things at the start of their candidacy, in writing, as part of their contract with the party whose nomination they are seeking. Either the party or the candidate may terminate this contract at will, at any time, without recourse. Terminating the contract ends the candidacy.

I realize some of these requirements might be controversial. That’s OK, they are meant to start the discussion, not end it. In particular, the idea that you have to demonstrate electability might strike some people as overly restrictive on ‘outsiders’. Sorry, the last counter-example is Eisenhower, and the last counter-counter-example is Trump. A little road-bump between a military career and political office is not a bad thing.

It used to be that we could expect our parties to put forth the best and the brightest, without worrying the exact details of what ‘best and brightest’ entailed. Apparently that is not possible anymore. So here we are.

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